She was the family's only survivor. When a business associate of her father's arrived for an appointment at the big new house in Herndon just after noon yesterday, the 11-year-old came to the door, shaken and disoriented, bleeding where a bullet had grazed the back of her head. She didn't seem to understand what had happened.
When police got there, they found the three bodies upstairs in the master bedroom. Authorities believe Natarajan Ramachandran, 40, killed his wife, Kalpara, 36, and their 7-year-old son, Raj, shooting both of them several times in the upper body. He only wounded his daughter, Rejaha. Then he turned the rifle on himself.
The girl was treated at Inova Fairfax Hospital and is expected to fully recover. Police don't know when the shootings happened, early yesterday morning or late Sunday, and she can't tell them yet. They also don't know why.
Her father worked for Universal Finance Solutions, a Vienna investment firm. He and his wife had purchased the home in the 12300 block of Clareth Drive, with four bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths, for $585,000 in April 1997. It sits on an acre amid only 10 other houses in a subdivision called Crossfields.
Around that neighborhood yesterday, and in Manassas where the family used to live, there were memories of a father who was always working on business deals but who also played soccer with the children out in the yard.
A former neighbor, who asked that her name not be used, said Ramachandran frequently traveled to India, where he was from.
And, the neighbors said, the family always seemed so happy.
Pragathi Kollu, who lives in the family's former Manassas neighborhood, said Kalpara Ramachandran did not indicate that anything was wrong when they spoke earlier this week. Natarajan Ramachandran was planning a trip to India this week to visit his father, who was having bypass surgery, Kollu said.
His wife "said they were doing fine," Kollu said.
The family liked their new neighborhood, and it didn't seem to bother them that their old home had not sold quickly, Kollu said.
"I don't think that was a big problem," Kollu said, but Kalpara "said it had become a headache."
The couple had lived in the United States for at least 20 years, Kollu said, although they maintained strong ties to their family in India.
"They were a happy family," Kollu said. "They were always going on trips."
Ravi Kollu, Pragathi's husband, said the Ramachandran family had just returned from a vacation to India. His family has known them for about eight years, he said, adding that he never sensed any trouble in their home.
"When I first heard about it, I thought someone had robbed the house," he said. "I just don't know how this could have happened."
Neighbors in the Herndon neighborhood said the family moved in about a 1 1/2 years ago and described them as very friendly.
Sara Jane DiGiovanni, who lives next door, said she would often see Natarajan Ramachandran outside playing with his children and would wave across the fence. Kalpara Ramachandran did not work outside the home, she said. "It is mind-boggling to think you could shoot your own children," said DiGiovanni, who said she was unaware of any tension between the husband and wife. "This is so unbelievable."
Debbie Lamont, another neighbor, said she left work early yesterday after her 16-year-old daughter called to say something strange was going on in the neighborhood. "I'm very shaken," Lamont said. "To think something like this could happen is very unnerving." CAPTION: At a house in the 12300 block of Clareth Drive in Herndon, police found three bodies. Officials believe that Natarajan Ramachandran killed his wife, Kalpara, and their son, Raj, and then killed himself. His daughter, Rejaha, was wounded.